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Golden Retriever vs. Labrador vs. German Shepherd

3 pictures- one of a golden retriever, one of a yellow lab, and one of a german shepherd, each over laying the other, cut on a diagonal with the letters VS, between each.

Want to get a reliable and loving canine companion for your family? Golden Retriever, Labrador, and German Shepherd are the three most popular canine breeds that you can get as pets. All these pups are really intelligent and make a strong bond with their people. Let’s compare these dogs to see which one of them suits you the most.

Golden Retriever

Portrait of a Golden Retriever, outdoors and laying on a bale of hay

This breed was developed in Scotland to retrieve shot waterfowl, like ducks and upland game birds. These pups come in different shades of golden, including light, dark, and rich golden crimson.

Male Golden Retrievers grow up to 22-24 inches tall while females can only reach the maximum height of 22.5 inches. Likewise, the weight of male Goldens ranges between 55-75 pounds while females can weigh up to 64 pounds.


Close up portrait of the head of a Black Lab

Labs were developed in the 18th century to retrieve fish and ducks for the fishermen of Canada. Over the years, they have developed as one of the most reliable family companions due to their gentle and friendly demeanor. This is the reason why they are among the most-wanted dogs in the United States.

Labrador Retrievers are highly trainable due to their intelligence and loyalty. These pups need a lot of exercise to burn their abundant supply of energy and stay calm. If they don’t get enough physical and mental stimulation, Labs can exhibit negative behavior.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd standing on a wooded trail

This working breed originated in Germany, in 1899. It was developed by Max von Stephanite, an ex-cavalry officer, by mixing different working sheepdogs. His primary goal was to come up with a high-stamina shepherd dog.

German Shepherds can grow up to 21.5-26 inches tall, and they can weigh anywhere between 55 and 90 pounds. They have elongated bodies and a muscular build that is ideal for guard dogs. They come in a variety of coat colors, such as tan, black, and red.

Differences Between Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds

The following table shows the marked differences between these breeds.

CharacteristicsGolden RetrieverLabradorGerman Shepherd
Height20-24 inches21-24 inches22-26 inches
Weight55-80 pounds55-75 pounds49-88 pounds
TemperamentConfident and trustworthyAffectionate and friendlyAlert and courageous
Lifespan10-12 years10-12 years9-13 years
CoatSilky, shiny, and straightDense, hard, and shortFuzzy
ColorGoldenYellow, chocolate brown, and blackSilver, tan, black, and red
BarkingOftenVery oftenOccasionally
Good with Dogs and Other PetsYesYesNo

Similarities Between Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds

Yellow Labrador and a German Shepherd laying side by side in grass

Some of the most important similarities between these three dog breeds are as follows.

Purebred – All these dogs are purebreds and have not encountered any crossbreeding in their development.

Shedding – All these breeds shed heavily (especially during seasonal changes) and will require regular grooming.

Intelligence – Golden Retriever, Labrador, and German Shepherds are regarded among the brightest dog breeds. They can learn new things very quickly and love to please their owners.

Trainability – Thanks to their high levels of intelligence and obedient nature, these breeds are pretty easy to train.

Adaptability – Although all these breeds are considered large, they can adapt to all living environments, including apartments.

Good with Children and Strangers – These breeds are kid-friendly and show a lot of patience and tolerance around children. They are very friendly with humans, including strangers, and must be trained properly.

What is Better About a Golden Retriever?

Golden Retriever laying in grass with woods in the background

This medium-sized breed can adjust well to different situations and living conditions. They do require daily walks and playtime to burn their excess energy, but won’t mind a break to rest. These intelligent canines are an ideal companion for families with multiple pets. This is because they gel well with dogs and other pets.

What is Better About a Labrador?

Yellow Labrador laying on a bug eaten log near a body of water

Labs are very intelligent and have an exemplary temperament. These features make them ideal for novice owners. This breed prefers to live in big houses with backyards so that they could run around. However, these large-sized dogs are good at adapting and can be trained to live in an apartment.

What is Better About a German Shepherd?

German shepherd laying in grass with autumn leaves

These loyal and loving canines can even risk their lives for protecting their family. The muscular body and square-cut muzzle of German Shepherds are enough to make anyone wary of the danger. In addition to that, they are very obedient and always obey the command of the owner. Hence, they make wonderful watchdogs and guard dogs.

German Shepherds have a long history of serving in the army and rescue federations. This is because they are one of the fastest dogs in the world and can run at a speed of 48 kilometers per hour. Likewise, they are quite intelligent and can be trained to execute several types of missions.

Who Should Get a Golden Retriever?

Golden retriever puppy laying in grass, smiling, with other puppies in the background.

This breed is only suitable for those families who can attend to their pets during the day. Golden Retrievers don’t like to stay alone for long spells and can develop bad habits when left alone. They require less exercise than Labs and German Shepherds and are more suitable for inactive (or less active) families.

Who Should Get a Labrador?

Yellow Labrador puppy in a basket lines with blue and white striped fabric

Although Labs prefer homes with a backyard, they can be conditioned to live in an apartment. Make sure to train them early and provide them regular walks to keep them happy and healthy. This breed is ideal for first-time owners because they are very convenient to manage. Likewise, these pups behave well around children.

Who Should Get a German Shepherd?

German Shepherd puppy laying in tall grass

German Shepherds are quite calm and don’t demand a lot of space. They are ideal for medium-sized homes because of their body size and physical needs. However, these pups can adapt to apartment life if their exercise requirements are being fulfilled.

Most German Shepherds do extremely well in police or as rescue dogs. Their caring nature makes them an ideal companion for senior citizens.

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